Our city is facing a homelessness crisis. This is no surprise to anyone. Yet our elected officials have failed to respond effectively. We had a ten-year plan to end homelessness. But in 2017, over 8,500 people were homeless in Seattle, including nearly 4,000 people sleeping unsheltered. The challenges of living unsheltered are exacerbated for many given the prevalence of disabilities: half of our houseless neighbors live with at last one disabling condition.
Our city administration has doubled down on ineffective policies that further destabilize our houseless neighbors and do not effectively transition people into stable housing. It’s clear we need a new path forward.
5,000 Homes in 5 Years
It is time for the belief that housing is a human right to no longer be a noble catchphrase, but a funded policy that can be put into practice. Our campaign proposes building 5,000 homes in five years, which will effectively end unsheltered homelessness in Seattle.
To fund this proposal to build 5,000 homes in five years, we must increase the city’s corporate tax rate by 31 cents per $100 of revenue on the service sector and 16 cents per $100 of revenue on retail businesses. At the same time, we must raise the Business and Occupation tax exemption from $100,000 to $1 million dollars of yearly revenue.
This proposal provides needed tax relief to two-thirds of Seattle small businesses, while raising enough revenue to build 5,000 units of deeply affordable housing for the homeless in five years.
Seattleites have been more than generous with taxing themselves with levy after levy. But property taxes can be regressive, and low income and fixed income homeowners are feeling squeezed. This proposal ensures big business will pay its fair share. We know that companies like Amazon are driving up housing prices, and as one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, they can afford to do more.
Support Housing for All Comprehensive Platform
Our campaign is proud to endorse the Housing for All platform, including investing in long-term housing, short-term shelter and humane responses to unsheltered homelessness. The complete Housing for All platform is included below.
Housing is a Human Right
The answer to homelessness is housing, but this is a challenge with so few units affordable and accessible to low-income households. Mounting evidence suggests that for most homeless people, short-term Rapid Re-Housing vouchers will not be a reliable bridge to stable, permanent housing in our region’s hot housing market.
- Quadruple HALA’s goal for creating housing affordable at 0-30% AMI from 6,000 to 24,000 units in ten years to meet the projected need. Use surplus city property and pursue all progressive funding options. Prioritize housing near transit, community-driven projects, community-owned housing and land trusts.
- Implement regulations that will increase and expand the variety of housing options affordable to low-income people, including backyard cottages, mother-in-law units, and SROs.
- Consider a long-term Rapid Re-Housing voucher program until enough affordable housing is available.
- The present Coordinated Entry system to housing is deeply flawed. Any housing entry system must provide fair access to all, including the most difficult to house.
Creating affordable housing will take time. In the meantime, without shelter, people die. We need shelter at the scale of the crisis, and the quality and accessibility of shelters must be improved. Shelters and services are needed that respect and support the diverse needs of homeless people, including couples, families, youth, college students, people with pets, people living with disabilities, LGBTQIA people, immigrants and refugees, people with language barriers, domestic violence survivors, people with felony convictions, as well as people struggling with mental health and/or substance use challenges.
- Revisit the Homeless Investments RFP process in light of the severe shortage of affordable housing, recognizing that the fundamental role of shelter is to meet people’s immediate, urgent needs.
- Preserve and expand Seattle’s total shelter capacity to meet the needs in our communities by supporting a diverse array of low-barrier, indoor shelter options with supportive services as needed.
- Support organized outdoor communities such as tent cities and tiny house villages, including the necessary funding for success.
Sweeps Aren’t Working
Seattle’s removals of homeless people from unauthorized encampments and vehicles have proven to be ineffective, costly, and inhumane. Without enough permanent housing to offer to people, the City is wasting scarce resources chasing people from place to place, disrupting whatever fragile stability and community they’ve established and making them more vulnerable.
- When housing cannot be offered, outreach and services should be provided without threat of removal, unless an encampment site is irremediably unsafe or in conflict with other public uses of the site. For truly unsuitable sites, inform people of alternate nearby sites where they won’t face removal.
- Support services that lessen the impact of homelessness on surrounding communities, such as garbage removal, sharps containers, pest control, and public restrooms.
- For vehicles that are being used as shelter, find alternatives to ticketing and towing that are non-punitive and don’t result in debt traps. Provide supportive services and establish safe parking areas for people living in vehicles.